INDIANAPOLIS – The new Netflix documentary “Our Father” follows the story of Indiana fertility doctor Donald Cline and how he used his own genetic material to inseminate his unsuspecting patients. After the scandal was exposed, Indiana lawmakers passed new legislation in 2019 that provides legal recourse to victims of fertility fraud.
Before Indiana passed this legislation, it didn’t have a law on the books specifically focused on fertility fraud.
“This has caused, again, a lot of devastation to a lot of families,” said a fertility fraud victim who asked to remain anonymous.
The victim we spoke with said he has looked into taking legal action under Indiana’s fertility fraud law but found it doesn’t apply to his case.
“While it is a great first step at prohibiting this type of conduct in the future, it was not retroactive,” he said.
Indiana’s fertility fraud law makes misrepresentation related to a medical procedure or human reproductive material a Level 6 felony. It also allows victims to file a civil lawsuit against a doctor within five years of discovering they’re a victim of fertility fraud or a defendant’s confession.
“There’s a criminal law doctrine called ex post facto and it prohibits prosecutors from charging a perpetrator with a charge which was not a crime actually when he committed it,” said Jody Madeira, a law professor with the IU Maurer School of Law who has studied fertility fraud and interviewed several of the victims of Dr. Cline.
State Sen. Jack Sandlin (R-Indianapolis), the leading author on the legislation, is not ruling out potential changes in the future.
“When you pass a statute like that, I think that it’s appropriate to continue to look at that,” Sandlin said.
The victim we spoke with said he wants to see the law applied to more previous cases and the penalties heightened. He is working on new legislation in a nearby state, and he has spoken with Indiana legislators about changing the law here, he added.
“I want to see the people who have engaged in this egregious, horrific, abhorrent conduct to be held responsible, whether that’s criminally, whether that’s civilly,” he said.
Most states don’t have laws on fertility fraud, Madeira said. Some others – including Texas, Florida and Colorado – have passed laws since Indiana’s went into effect, and Ohio and Illinois have pending legislation, she added.